How Do Drugs Work?
Drugs provide their effects by altering the way in which the central nervous system (CNS) operates. The CNS is the brain and spinal cord. The effects fall into one of three broad categories of depressant, stimulant or hallucinogenic.
More on how the drugs work within the CNS is given in the section of this program called 'Drugs and the Brain'.
There are also quirky individual responses to all drugs including alcohol. Some people always 'turn nasty' or even violent when under the influence of alcohol. Usually they have some underlying resentment or anger they are bottling up. When the drug takes the lid off - it all comes boiling out.
Strangely this seems to happen much more with the drug alcohol than with most other depressant drugs although it has been noted that some stimulants and steroid drugs can reveal or provoke violence and aggression in some users.
If this seems a bit complicated - it is! The effects of drug use are conditional. It depends how much is taken, of what drug, how often, in what doses, in what settings, with what experience, in what mood and with what expectation.
As the body becomes used to a drug, tolerance to the effects can build up. This means that increased doses are required to achieve the desired effect.
Some drugs, when used regularly over an extended period, can produce physical and/or psychological dependence or addiction.
Psychological dependence is an emotional craving for a drug to which the body has become accustomed. Physical dependence means the body has adapted to the drug and it is likely that withdrawal symptoms will follow when the drug is no longer taken.
Drugs with a potential for physical Dependence include the Opiates (Heroin, Morphine, etc.), Opioids (synthetic opiate like drugs such as Methadone and Palfium), the Benzodiazepines - so called 'minor tranquillisers' (valium, librium, etc.) and Alcohol. There are also the Stimulant drugs with severe dependency potential. These include Nicotine, Cocaine, Amphetamines and Caffeine.